Legal Literacy and Immovable Property: Laws, Norms and Practices in Colombia


  • Greta Friedemann-Sánchez

    1. Based at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, USA (e-mail: A Colombian anthropologist, she works on women's empowerment and gender equity including four interrelated issues: paid labour, property ownership, domestic violence and unpaid caregiving.
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This study was funded by a Grant in-Aid-of-Research from the Graduate School, University of Minnesota. The author would like to thank Carmen Diana Deere, Katherine Fennelly, Deborah Levison and the anonymous referees of this journal for comments and suggestions on earlier versions of the manuscript.


An equitable gender distribution of property ownership may be enhanced or limited by family law, individual knowledge of the law, and social norms. South America's laws of equal inheritance by sex and birth order and equal distribution of property upon divorce provide the basis of a gender-equitable distribution of property ownership. This report of a qualitative case study exploring the gendered knowledge of immovable property laws and the practice of patterns of property ownership in central Colombia provides insights into the gap between law and practice caused by lack of information, social norms, gendered access to legal titles, a complex legal system and high transaction costs. It argues for greater attention to titling, legal procedures, legal education and legal advice to secure effective immovable property ownership for women.